Airbus revives freighter fracas

Farnborough Air Show » 2006
November 15, 2006, 5:49 AM

Airbus A380 director of product marketing Richard Carcaillet hasn’t let go unanswered the potshots taken by his Boeing counterpart, Randy Baseler, whose Internet blog, Randy’s Journal, has clearly ruffled some feathers in Toulouse.

“Don’t believe what you hear coming out of Seattle,” Carcaillet said on more than one occasion during the Airbus Technical Press Briefing in mid-June, referring to the Boeing marketing vice president’s assessments of the A380 Freighter’s weight, range, fuel burn and payload density.

According to Baseler, the A380 weighs 74 metric tons more than the new 747-8F, but allows carriers to haul just seven metric tons more in revenue payload. “If you ask me, that’s the definition of a very inefficient freighter,” declared Baseler’s online sermon.

Of course, Airbus argues that the A380F’s volume capacity will prove as valuable as its weight-carrying capacity. “Real life payloads are volumetric, not structural,” said Carcaillet. “Volume multiplied by density is what defines a cargo payload. The A380F is better able to deal with the lower densities seen in long-haul markets today. Boeing freighters are designed for high densities only.”

Furthermore, according to Airbus, Boeing intentionally mischaracterizes the A380F’s payload with a disingenuous pallet choice and by deliberately ignoring the A380F max zero fuel weight/max takeoff weight tradeoff capability. Airbus also asserts that Boeing overstated the A380F’s tare weight, or the weight of the pallets or containers used to hold the freight, by 1.5 metric tons in its calculations. All told, according to the European company, on a 3,000-nm route the A380F carries 20.5 metric tons more than the 747-8F, not the seven metric tons Baseler cited.

As a result of weight and fuel burn exaggerations, said Carcaillet, Baseler’s contention that the A380F will use 30 percent more fuel per trip than the 747-8F overstates the advantage by a factor of two. Airbus estimates place the advantage at 15 percent, and only 2 percent per metric ton, as opposed to Boeing’s assessment of 20 percent.

Of course, the airplanes’ respective ranges also raise a point of contention. “The A380F’s superior range [5,600 nm fully loaded vs roughly 4,500 nm for the 747-8F–Ed.] is not for ‘fragmented,’ point-to-point services, as Randy amusingly pretends,” asserted Carcaillet. “It is to remove pure refueling stops mandatory for all 747Fs, past, present and future.”

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